Last year former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued Fox News boss Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. The network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid her $20 million to settle the lawsuit.
Fox News is making headlines again because advertisers are fleeing the network’s prime time show hosted by Bill O'Reilly, after a report that five women were paid a total of $13 million to settle accusations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse against him. O'Reilly and the parent company deny the allegations.
This barrage of bad news for Fox News suggests that the network tolerates sex harassment, and is making the lives of HR directors across Florida much harder.
Last week Gretchen Carlson and her lawyer Nancy Erika Smith, spoke at the Women in the World conference. Gretchen Carlson blasted employers for having forced-arbitration clauses in contracts, which prevent employees from suing harassers in court.
“You will go to a secret proceeding called ‘forced arbitration,’ and nobody will ever hear about what happened to you, she said.
Her lawyer was asked about a defense offered by O’Reilly - that no woman ever filed a complaint about him with Human Resources or called the company hotline to report inappropriate behavior. Smith ridiculed the hotline as being a good idea “only if you think it would be good to call the KGB to complain about Putin.”
Gretchen Carlson’s lawyer collectively threw all human resource directors under the bus by declaring that “HR is not your friend. HR will not help you…the first call you make is to an attorney.”
This message is an awful message for employees to be receiving. Employees should feel comfortable bringing complaints to Human Resources. When an employee feels that they cannot bring a complaint to the HR department, they will seek out other options, such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a Plaintiff’s lawyer.
This bad press involving Fox News should be a wake-up call to Florida employers to review their anti-discrimination and harassment policies and make sure that their managers and staff have been trained recently (in the past 12 months is a good idea).
These recent news events remind Florida employers that the sex harassment is still a problem in the workplace. If you need any assistance with your handbooks/policies, or in conducting an investigation into alleged harassment, please email or call the Law Office of David Miklas, P.A. at 1-772-465-5111.
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